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164 - Planning for COVID-19's Impact on the Courts
Leh Meriwether: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are your cohost for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp. Here, you'll learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis from time to time, even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Todd Orston: From time to time we will even talk about pandemics.
Leh Meriwether: Unfortunately, yes.
Todd Orston: Hopefully, not very often.
Leh Meriwether: Hopefully, not very often. Yes. If you couldn't gather, we are going to talk about the COVID-19 virus. I know what COVID-19, they're calling it COVID. I know they keep saying coronavirus, but we're talking about today because the issue of how this is going to impact the law and the courts and a case you might have in the courts is something that we're pretty sure is going to happen. We're going to have to deal with it. In fact, I wasn't even gonna talk to you about doing a show until the Supreme Court issued a rule that applied to lawyers that said that the lawyers in the State of Georgia could attend all their CLEs online.
Todd Orston: Continuing Legal Education credits. Every year you have to get a number of credits. Usually, you have to go to a central location and there are a number of people there. It's basically, okay, instead of you all gathering together, here's an option.
Leh Meriwether: Right. Of course, when you go to court, there's often couple hundred people and it's packed inside of a courtroom. That's why when I saw that, I'm like, there is no question this is coming. Rather than panic, why don't we talk about it? Because that's the most important thing. If you talk about it, let's be frank about it. Let's get all the facts as we understand them out, then we can be better prepared and not run to the grocery store and buy a ton of toilet paper, which I still don't understand ...
Todd Orston: Too late.
Leh Meriwether: Still don't understand why people are doing that.
Todd Orston: Did you hear about the person that, I think Australia, something like $2,000, says she accidentally ordered, I can't remember what it was, but like a thousand rolls or something. I'm like, "Corona is the least of your problems. You may have a bug or something."
Leh Meriwether: Not the corona.
Todd Orston: Yeah, I don't know what's going on in your house. But look, we're going to talk about this. Obviously it's incredibly serious. We may make a joke here or there. It does not mean that we're taking this lightly. It is of course, incredibly serious. We're going to talk about also tips and things that you should be thinking about, things that we've heard online or on the news. But believe me when I say, they're people, many people out there who are far, far, far, far smarter than Leh, that you should be getting your information from. I meant to say us, of course, way quick. No, no. Obviously, do not take advice from us when it comes to your health, when it comes to things you should or should not be doing. Really, the purpose of the show is we are going to talk about this straight talk and the impact on the legal system is going to be the focus.
Todd Orston: This order, like you said, it came back or came down from the Supreme Court intending to, for lack of a better way of putting it, limit big group gatherings. We are seeing this now. We saw on the news, the NBA we are seeing it affect things like cruise lines and airlines. It's affecting our society in so many ways. Now, pulling back again to the legal system, if you are thinking about filing or if you are or have already filed and you have a pending case, how is this going to impact you right now? Attorneys are not having to gather in places for CLEs, for Continuing Legal Education credits. Well, are we that far from courthouses being shut down?
Leh Meriwether: I don't think so. I think that's coming. We as lawyers, one of the jobs we do is gather evidence, gather facts, and then we present them in court. Often we will gather, bring together, not only lay witnesses, but we bring together experts. And so we put together a case. So we're kind of building a case. What we're doing is we're taking that skillset that we have learned and applying it to this. Todd and I had been researching this issue, gone to the CDC, the World Health Organization. Have read information from a pretty impressive expert out there. He's a professor, Michael Osterholm. I think that's his name. Pretty impressive credentials. He's been working on this a long time. He wrote a book, and I apologize for not remembering the book, but he actually wrote a book on this subject. It came out in 2017, and Chapter 13 of the book, he predicted a virus just like this coming out of China, based on SARS ...
Todd Orston: Yes, SARS and MERS and basically ...yeah. He sort of forecast something like this happening, and I think his focus was China.
Leh Meriwether: Because he said that was the way their society was set up. There's nothing wrong with it, but it just created an environment where a virus would jump from an animal to a human and then spread like wildfire because ...
Todd Orston: And how the government would react then. Everything he wrote about has sort of come to life. It has come to fruition too.
Leh Meriwether: He wrote in early January, he wrote an article that said that, hey, this is not going to be contained in China. It's going to be a pandemic. He was very clear. He wasn't trying to panic people. He was saying, "Guys, when it happens, don't be panicked. I just want you to know it's so infectious like the flu that we're not going to contain this. We just need to be better prepared and we need to start planning now." Unfortunately, everything he wrote in there has been coming true, but that's why I'm also giving a lot of credibility to his advice.
Todd Orston: Yeah. I think also a big part of his message was not, well there's nothing you can do about it, so good luck. I think really a big part of the message, and I'm summarizing and putting it into my own words is be smart. Listen to some of the things that the experts are saying in terms of don't put yourself in harm's way, don't go into very crowded areas, wash your hands routinely, don't touch your face. These things. But he even was saying in an interview that I heard that look, the whole don't touch your face and all that, that may have no bearing, because if this is airborne ...
Leh Meriwether: Which he said it was.
Todd Orston: Right, then you not touching your face granted, maybe you've touched something then touch your face, fine. But you may get it just by being in a room where somebody was that has this. So again, be smart.
Leh Meriwether: Here's the key thing. A lot of people talk about, well, the SARS virus, I mean the SARS, actually the stars vies too. This COVID-19, I don't know if that's the proper ... that's what I'm going to call it.
Todd Orston: We're going to go with it.
Leh Meriwether: You're going to go?
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: So COVID-19 and SARS both they can stay on a flat surface alive and for up to three days. That's the current information that we have. But SARS was contained very, very quickly and it did not spread. It had 10% death rate, but it didn't spread very far. But this has spread already around the world, which goes to show the issue of it being alive on flat surface, because I hear about people just hosing down schools and stuff like that, that's really not having an impact.
Todd Orston: I've taken a hose of my son nine times now.
Leh Meriwether: Well, it must not ...
Todd Orston: He's like, "Dad, I don't have ..." I'm like, "I don't want to take a chance. I have smelled to you.
Leh Meriwether: Well, that's the other interesting thing is that it's barely impacting children. Like in China ...
Todd Orston: Thank goodness.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. When it comes to the flu, the flu impacts the kids the fastest and schools become a Petri dish for influenza and it spreads very quickly. The kids come home, spread it to their parents. But this virus is actually the opposite. The parents are giving to the children and the children are not manifesting any of the symptoms. I don't think there's even ... Now, let me say this. We are pre-recording this show on March 12th, so you may hear something, you may hear this later and something new just come out that contradicts what I'm saying.
Todd Orston: That's coming out daily, hourly.
Leh Meriwether: But as of this point, the last thing I read was that nobody under the age of 10 had come down with it. Even under 19, it was a fraction of a fraction.
Todd Orston: Once again, back backpedaling on the joke about people smarter than you. The bottom line is truly there are people that are far smarter than we are and ...
Leh Meriwether: That's their job.
Todd Orston: And that's their job, to study this and understand, go far deeper in terms of the spreadability of a disease and precautionary measures that you can take. But I will say this, it's an opinion, but I feel so strongly and I wanted to make sure that we didn't leave the studio without me touching on this. This disease, absolutely is not spread by Corona beer. All right? I am confident of so few things in life. I'm certain at my core, Corona beer had nothing to do with this. Look, we have to learn lessons from the past. We remember, all of us remember Black Plague lager. These companies, they're gone. No, I'm kidding.
Todd Orston: Yeah, I'm using that as an example of an overreaction. We have to inject reason. We have to inject logic. We have to be smart. Some of the things that we've already done that the government, and not just our government, has already done is more reactionary like keeping everyone ... the same doctor was talking about keeping everybody on cruise ship ...
Leh Meriwether: That's terrible.
Todd Orston: Was probably the worst decision, and watching how it spread like wildfire.
Leh Meriwether: When we come back, we're going to talk about why he thought that was the worst thing we could have done. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB, so you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep I guess. You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back to Divorce Team Radio where we're talking about what we always talk about, pandemics and infectious diseases. No, I'm just kidding. Thankfully, we do not always talk about it.
Todd Orston: We do not always talk about it.
Leh Meriwether: But this COVID-19 is becoming, I don't want to say serious, because the flu's serious too. It kills millions, I mean it was 720 to 70,000 people a year in just the United States, and that's with a vaccine. But we are talking about something that people I think are ... We are being reactionary. In some instances, I think being over reactionary, which is creating problems. We are not trying to get ahead of this, instead we're just reacting out of panic.
Todd Orston: You know what the difference is very quickly?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: The difference is life goes on, meaning normal everyday life goes on and the flu is spreading and people are getting it and they're getting sick and some are going to the hospital and unfortunately, some are dying. Coronavirus, COVID, that is affecting, whether it's right or wrong, whether it's a reasonable reaction or not, it's affecting everything. It's affecting the stock market. It's affecting businesses. My wife works at a company, they were one of the many big companies that had a big event scheduled, it's now canceled. There are the reaction, there are so many immediate direct significant impacts on just other areas of life business and finance and you name it.
Todd Orston: That's where this is different. As a society, a world society, we are reacting to this and unless we figure out how to better deal with this, the ramifications, I just don't even know where things end. And we're talking about the court system. I can't talk about the market, I can't talk about other areas of life, but we can talk about the court system. We can talk about, okay, well the legal system, what happens if this reaction of shutdown and just move away from any other people so that nobody else gets it and we have to shut down the system in the process, how's that going to impact people?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, it's going to be bad. Let's finish up ... well, before we left.
Todd Orston: You mean before you cut me off?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, before I cut you off.
Todd Orston: Well, I did sort of lose track of the time. That was sort of the polite radio way of saying, Todd, shut up.
Leh Meriwether: I try not to say that.
Todd Orston: Yeah, your eyes said it all.
Leh Meriwether: What the doc or the professor had said was that that was the worst thing we could have done to those people on the cruise ships because a lot of them weren't sick, but we made them sick because we kept them trapped on a vessel-
Todd Orston: Where there's recycled air going into the rooms and that's why you saw such a large percentage of the people on the boat get sick. But we're learning. You and I were talking outside before we began the show, you know what? Thank God that this is a disease, a sickness that doesn't have the mortality rate of like an Ebola.
Leh Meriwether: Or MERS.
Todd Orston: Or MERS where it spreads very easily and hopefully, the mortality rate will be as low as we can get it. This needs to be our test case. We need, and I will bring it, once again, back to the legal environment. We need to come up with some logical reactions and actions in how we're going to deal, if something like this rears its ugly head, how are we going to deal with it where it's not just, it goes from a reaction to a dramatic overreaction, something that could hurt more than it helps
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I want to talk about that for a few minutes too because, well, we can't fix people overreacting or being in a reactionary mode right now. Let's try to add some help. Then, a lot of times I like to put things in context. Like the flu, so far this year, this flu season, it's killed between 20,000 and 50,000 people just in the United States, and we're not even talking about that because everybody's so obsessed about the COVID. Pneumonia on an annual basis kills about 50,000 people. I know the CDC report in 2015, there was about 50,000 people died of pneumonia. There are infectious diseases that are killing people on an annual basis that people just ... I don't know if we've just gotten numb to it or gotten used to it and this is so new, it's scaring everyone.
Leh Meriwether: Now, that being said, we don't know what the ultimate death rates going to be because some of the numbers in China were like 2% to 3%, which is obviously a tremendous ... it's a lot higher than 0.1% which is the flu.
Todd Orston: But there could have been a lot of people that were unreported that didn't die, that didn't show any symptoms and what-have-you that could have brought the percentage down.
Leh Meriwether: Right. Because I think, according to all the data that's out there right now, and this is, I think the World Health Organization, 80% of the cases are mild. Of those 80% a lot of people, they just think they have a cold, so they never even get tested. Now, the bad thing is they never get tested, so they are so busy spreading it. Not intentionally, but they're out there talking, and you don't have to cough. That's what this ... well I guess the one, I don't know if it was scary, but what Dr. Michael, I'm just going to call him Michael, what he was saying was that just breathing. Because there was a chauffeur in a car that he came down with it. He had a passenger who wasn't sneezing, wasn't coughing, was sort of asymptomatic, but he did turn out later that he had it and he was just breathing in the car with him and the chauffeur came down with it four days later.
Leh Meriwether: It's just breathing, and not to scare anybody, but that's the flu. That is the flu. That's why the flu happens every year. We have never been able to contain it. It just happens. Hopefully, this virus doesn't become like the flu, although some of them are saying it's going to be something we have to deal with on an annual basis. I hope it doesn't get there. I hope it just runs its course and then we're done with it until the next one. But going back to your point, we need to start planning. Let's keep talking about planning. Here's my thoughts. Here's what I'd love to hear. Number one, I'd love to hear the legislature, of course they're working on all kinds of other things, but if they had the time, because I know the Georgia legislature, they're still in session, I'd love for them to be working on making some rules right now about our court system that take advantage of technology.
Leh Meriwether: What I mean by that is, ideally when we do a trial, you want to do it all in person because there's body language. There's so much to being in the same room when you're conducting a trial that is so valuable. Okay?
Todd Orston: But you know what? That's already to some degree used. In the arena criminal law, defendants sometimes will appear by video ...
Leh Meriwether: For a bond hearing.
Todd Orston: For a bond hearing so that they are in the prison or the jail where they are, and instead of putting them in a van and driving them to the courthouse simply for a 10 minute hearing, because that of course puts the guards, the sheriff deputies and what-have-you, puts them at risk, it's dangerous, you're transporting them, so they do that remotely. We have the technology, and if you walk into every court for the most part, they're all set up.
Leh Meriwether: There's microphones hanging [crosstalk 00:19:06].
Todd Orston: There's microphones, there are big screen TVs. There is the ability to set these courtrooms up for remote hearings.
Leh Meriwether: Although we don't really do them in the civil setting, I have had a trial where the person, the defendant couldn't get there and I actually agreed to allow him to testify by phone. It did not hurt my case.
Todd Orston: Well, Florida.
Leh Meriwether: Florida, most hearings, you can appear by phone, you can even have a full temporary hearing by phone.
Todd Orston: Yeah, it's not just you can have it. My understanding is, and I know you're licensed, but my understanding is, that's not, I don't want to say the norm, but that it happens quite often.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I can't remember the last time I was in a courtroom in Florida. We would appear by phone all the time. Now, final trials, we'd appeared in the courtroom. There's just so much dynamics of a trial, but hey, extreme circumstances. I think, we should be, right now, focused on maybe pausing the current cases unless it's an emergency, but I think I'd love to hear the legislature sort of whatever we need to do as far as emergency funding the courts to give them cameras. So let's give cameras to the judges and maybe pay for, what is it? It could be a Skype, or what's the other one we're using? Well, there's all those different services.
Todd Orston: Like Zoom.
Leh Meriwether: Zoom, thank you. Yeah, so you can set it up where you can see everybody. You can see the lawyers, whoever's testifying and the judge. So you can see them all on your screen just set cameras up. I guess the witness, your client comes to your office or, heck, they could be at home if they want. It wouldn't be ideal, but they could be at home, the judge could be in their chambers or heck, they could be at home if you set it up right. And then ...
Todd Orston: That'd be a little weird. The judge, like at their pool. "All right, opening statements. Hold on one second. No running. No running. All right, dive. That's fine. No head first on this."
Leh Meriwether: As long as they're in their row. But I'm not hearing anybody doing that, of course I'm not at the courthouse, but I'd love to hear that that's what they're trying to do. They're trying to set ... we have the technology to do appearances, to have hearings by a video conference. Now, just ... Oh, here's one thing I just thought about. What if someone's made a speedy trial demand and the court closes, does that mean that criminal defendant has to be let go because they didn't get their trial done in time?
Todd Orston: That is very interesting.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, us not doing criminal law, I mean, neither of us has done criminal law in a long time. I'm not sure that's ever happened ... Well, I mean we've never had something that's at this level.
Todd Orston: Where there's a national emergency and one that affects the immediate courthouses and results in a closing of a courthouse that would prevent impede them from moving forward with a trial.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Up next, we're going to continue to break down what the courts can do or maybe should be doing to sort of get ahead of this virus.
Todd Orston: Hey everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating and tell us why you like this show. Welcome back everyone. This is Divorce Team Radio where we deal with all kinds of things, including infectious diseases.
Todd Orston: Well, with you in the studio we have to.
Leh Meriwether: Oh my. No, but seriously, and we put this show together fairly quickly because, like I said earlier, I wasn't planning on doing a show like this. I didn't want to seem like we were jumping on a panic bandwagon, but when the Supreme court issued that ruling that impacted lawyers, I thought, okay, well, I think we should talk about this because based on some of the experts I'm hearing, we need to get ahead of this and quit panicking about it. Let's get some systems in place. We can't afford for our country to shut down because, okay, so let's say we shut down everything because we're afraid of this virus. All right? But then you have all these other people over here are depending on certain drugs being delivered or certain care in their homes, and now we try to treat this one ... we overreact to the COVID-19 virus and that results in all these other deaths in other areas because there's not enough ... because we shut down things-
Todd Orston: Yeah, people aren't getting help for the other issues.
Leh Meriwether: The other issues. Right. There was and interesting thing that was proffered by Dr. Michael where, or Professor Michael Osterholm.
Todd Orston: You keep struggling. We already agreed Michael. Mike, he likes to be noticed.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, so he's written a book. He's been interviewed. He predicted this back in 2017, and he actually predicted it was going to come out of China in fact. But he had said, look, the reaction, like if somebody gets in the schools, let's just shut down the schools. But he said that kids, if you look at the data, the kids aren't getting it. If they do get it, they're asymptomatic. Nobody, as of the time of the last interview I saw him, had gotten it under the age of 10. So shutting down the schools is not good because, I think he said something like 38% of the nurses in this country are our mothers or have kids at home, I should say and a lot of them are single moms.
Leh Meriwether: All of a sudden if you sent all these kids home, they can't go the hospitals to care for the people that are truly sick because 80% of the cases are very, very mild or mild to very mild, and only 20% are serious, but you need to be able to treat those 20%, but if all of a sudden 40% of our workforce that can treat them are at home with their kids, that reaction to the virus in a school has created a worse problem and could contribute to increasing the death rate because you don't have people there to care for the really sick people.
Todd Orston: Okay. All right, so we keep talking about reactions versus overreactions. Let's talk about reality. This is where we are, and we are seeing the NBA shutdown, we are seeing ...
Leh Meriwether: NCAA.
Todd Orston: ... cruise lines, airlines, NCAA, this is directly, significantly impacting our world. Now, let me once again bring it back to the legal system. Let's talk about, you either are about to file a case, you have a case, it's pending, whether you're on a trial calendar or not, I don't know how long this is going to take.
Leh Meriwether: I see a lot of cases where family violence for instance are we going to suddenly say someone can't get help from family? Someone's being beaten at home, we can't get them help with a family violence order?
Todd Orston: Well, and you have a certain period of time. So let's say you file ... the way that the family violence act works is you will serve the other party, you can get an ex parte order and that gives you immediate protection, but the defendant then has that, almost like a speedy trial demand. They have that right to have their day in court to defend themselves within a very specific short period of time. So now, here, once again, what happens if you get that and the courts are shut down [crosstalk 00:26:56].
Leh Meriwether: Part of the sheriff's office is shut down and they're not delivering orders because they didn't want to show up to some ...
Todd Orston: Or even if it is and now the courthouse is shut down for a month or two or three ...
Leh Meriwether: You can't have your hearing.
Todd Orston: That's right. Now, yeah, I have no doubt that that is something that the courts and even legislature can deal with and say, "Okay, in the meantime you get an ex parte order, then it'll be extended if the courthouse is officially closed."
Leh Meriwether: I don't think you can.
Todd Orston: I don't know how ...
Leh Meriwether: That's just an extreme remedy. I'm not sure that's ... but set it up for a video. Set it up for a video hearing.
Todd Orston: Yeah, no, I understand. I'm not disagreeing with you. You and I see eye to eye 100% on the use of technology. There's no reason that, even to deal with the pandemic, there's no reason why we shouldn't be utilizing technology in a better way in our courtrooms. But what I'm saying is here we're still in a reaction mode. We're still coming to grips with the fact that a disease like this can dramatically impact our world. Okay, what happens if someone has a hearing scheduled for tomorrow and today the courthouse is like, well, we're shut down. We're closed for the next two weeks, three weeks. Is someone going to be able to get away with ... does their TPO just disappear? Meaning, are they no longer bound by the terms of the ex parte order? And now all of a sudden that violent person goes near the other one and maybe that person gets hurt?
Todd Orston: Or flip side, someone is using a TPO improperly. They come up with false allegations, kicks somebody out of their house, gets an order based on lies, gets an order that prevents them from not only coming to the house, but being around their children. Now all of a sudden you're like, well, hold on, I want my day in court. Okay, it's no longer 30 days from now. Now, all of a sudden, it's like, I don't know, it could be ...
Leh Meriwether: Three, two months.
Todd Orston: .. three months. It could be how are you going to get that relief that you need in order to give back to your kids?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, and in case we weren't, so I didn't mention this before, with family violence orders, you have to, with the ex parte order, you have to have a hearing in 30 days or it automatically expires by operation of law. That's why we're saying that there's such an important deadline in the family law arena. Or maybe you have a case where you have a party that suddenly started liquidating all their assets, and perhaps maybe there was a legitimate reason in the beginning, but it's in the context of a divorce so it looks bad now all of a sudden.
Todd Orston: Well, hold on, Leh, hold on, hold on. There's a standing order that will protect you. Sorry, that was sarcasm. The standing order is, with every case that is filed, the court has already issued an order, a standing order ...
Leh Meriwether: Domestic.
Todd Orston: ... in domestic cases that gets filed with every case that is filed in that court system, every family law case, that says basically, don't do anything.
Leh Meriwether: While courts have the authority to do it, not all courts do that.
Todd Orston: Not all do, correct. They're commonly used, and basically is like saying, alright, don't do anything stupid. Don't do anything stupid financially, don't do anything stupid relating to the children, don't take them out of the ...
Leh Meriwether: Don't waste all the money. [crosstalk 00:30:14] everything.
Todd Orston: Dot waste the money, don't take the kids out of the jurisdiction. Now, it's not only a don't do, it's something that's stupid, it's, and by the way, this is now pursuant to an order and you can be held in contempt. The court is watching you. But what if the court's not watching you?
Leh Meriwether: Because they're shutdown.
Todd Orston: Right. Now all of a sudden, someone's blowing through the money and you're like, I need to freeze an asset. I need to, or somebody is, let's say, doing damage to a business or whatever and you need immediate help, but there is no help to be obtained because the court system is now shut down.
Leh Meriwether: That's why you've got to set it up. I hope the courts right now, I wish I'd had time to make phone calls for this today, but maybe we'll share this with the judges, but I'd love to hear that our courts are talking about, okay, how do we set it up so that these emergency situations can be dealt with by a judge? Because here's the wonderful thing. Recently, within the last couple of years, it's become ... everyone has to have e-filing. Nobody has to actually go to the courthouse to file a motion anymore. You could have the lawyer from their home draft a motion, file it with the court, request to hearing, and then you everybody's laptop now has a video camera on it just set up for a video hearing in front of the judge.
Todd Orston: But that's also not a perfect system because if a lay person is at home and they are going to go in and file something on their own without the help of an attorney, where do they go?
Leh Meriwether: Well, many of the websites have step by step instructions on what to do. The question is, do they have a scanner? But on the flip side, if you have a smartphone, there is an app for every phone, whether it be an Android or an iPhone where you can scan a document in, it converts it to a PDF like it's scannable on one app in the iPhone, in the iOS system, I don't know it's equivalent on Android, but it scans it and does a fantastic job. Turns it to a PDF and you can email it right from your phone.
Todd Orston: That sounds fantastic. And it also seems or sounds like it is well beyond the reach of many people who are just not technologically savvy. But the point is, it's not a perfect solution, because not everybody is going to either have the technology or have an understanding to use the technology, so they're going to have to congregate. The point is that ... All right, and I think when we come back, I'd love to focus on, okay, let's say you do have a case and you were staring down the barrel of a shutdown, what things can you do? Because you can't just sort of sit there and twiddle your thumbs and go, I hope it doesn't happen, and if it does, I guess I'll just start doing things when the court reopens. There are things that you can and should be thinking about and you have to continue to be proactive. We always talk about this. Be proactive to make sure you are protected and that you're not jeopardizing whatever your positions are simply due to your inactivity.
Leh Meriwether: When we come back, we're going to talk about a possible fit, something that you can do. If you're in the middle of a case, talk to your lawyer about doing and potentially set yourself up to plan ahead if you're in the middle of litigation. I just want to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB, so you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep I guess. You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back to Divorce Team Radio. This is Leh and Todd and we are talking about divorce in a roundabout sort of way. What can delay your divorce action? In this case specifically, we're talking about something we've never talked about before.
Todd Orston: Pandemics.
Leh Meriwether: Pandemics.
Todd Orston: Yup.
Leh Meriwether: Never thought we would say this, but before we circle back around to the idea I had on what people can do to sort of plan ahead if you got something coming up really soon, something very, very important you cannot afford for the court to delay is, we did have a pandemic in 1918, and that was the Spanish flu. It had 3.2% mortality rate. It specifically hit 18 to 25 year olds. It actually hit, the healthier you were, the worse it was for you because apparently your body ... it created the cycle inside your body that it caused you to ...
Todd Orston: Leave it to the expert.
Leh Meriwether: All right, fine.
Todd Orston: Okay.
Leh Meriwether: Anyways, it was bad. It killed millions of people back then. But we didn't have a speedy trial back then.
Todd Orston: Yeah, we were talking about that. That actually is a very interesting, I think it was the 1970s, early '70s when the Supreme court ruled and basically established, I think it was a four part or sort of test in terms of speedy trial and gave people this right to a speedy trial. Again, we've been out of criminal law for quite some time. I'm sure there might be some criminal defense attorneys rolling their eyes right now or prosecutors. But the point is, yeah, you're right. What if somebody demands a speedy trial and the courthouse shuts down? I have to assume there is going to be a methodology put into place where an extension, it's like, yes, you are entitled to a speedy trial for so long as the courthouse is open, but if the courthouse closes down then ... but I don't know. You're right. It's a very interesting legal point.
Leh Meriwether: What happens if you have ...? I think the biggest trouble comes with juries because you can ask for a jury trial in Georgia. It's one of two states you can.
Todd Orston: How do we force a juror to sit? If they're sitting here going, I have a weakened immune system or I have ...
Leh Meriwether: I'm elderly because it's [inaudible 00:36:13].
Todd Orston: Right, and therefore I do not feel comfortable coming in, and by the way, Georgia is one of the few, the last remaining states that allows a jury trial in a divorce. There aren't many states that still allow it. Of course, there are still other civil matters, criminal matters where there are juries. but again, if I don't feel comfortable, whether it's right, wrong, reasonable or not, and I go, no, I'm sorry I'm not sitting for a jury, well, the court normally would be able to say, yeah, you are.
Leh Meriwether: We're going to have the sheriff come pick you up.
Todd Orston: Yeah, exactly.
Leh Meriwether: I don't think that would happen in this case.
Todd Orston: Right. So our system of justice could shut down simply because we either will or will not respect people's concern, I don't want to call it fear, but concern over their wellbeing. They could be like, look, you want me to come in, sit in this room with a bunch of other people where other people have sat and maybe contract a disease that I'm going to take back to my kids, my wife, and maybe ...
Leh Meriwether: Or my parents I'm taking care of.
Todd Orston: ... parents, senior citizens that are there also in the home or come to the home. Now, I can't see my parents that I take care of and I watched them for ... I can't see them for two weeks because I have to self quarantine.
Leh Meriwether: Right, and I'm their caretaker.
Todd Orston: Yeah, and by the way, I'm not giving everybody listening an excuse on how to get out of jury duty. That's not what I'm doing.
Leh Meriwether: Depending on where you look, the mortality rate for over the age of 65 with certain factors is between 10% and 15%.
Todd Orston: Yeah, it's significant.
Leh Meriwether: It's scary.
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: That to me is scary, so I actually had been talking to my parents about, hey, maybe you should not go to the grocery store and us may come take care of stuff. All right, so let's circle back around. What can you do? You're sitting there, you've got a divorce., there's issues going on, you're being blocked from seeing your kids, you want to be able to see your kids and you need some relief? You've tried your best. Obviously the first thing is settle your case, but we're talking about those extreme situations where the lawyers haven't been able to work it out and you need a judge to make a ruling.
Leh Meriwether: My thought would be go to your lawyer and talk to them about filing a motion before your particular judge and ask for the judge to pre-issue an order ahead of time that if the courthouse sets down that you can have an online hearing and talk to them about ... and sort of stablish it. In the order you would say we will use Zoom, and maybe have your lawyer set up the zoom because it's free if it's just two people, but I think if it's more than two people you have to pay for it. But it's like 15 bucks a month.
Leh Meriwether: Have your lawyer or you pay for it to create a Zoom account, invite everybody to the Zoom meeting and have that as a hearing. Maybe it'd not be Zoom, maybe it'd be Skype. I was using that because we, at the firm, have used zoom recently. But be proactive. Reach out to the judge ahead of time. Say, "Hey, I'm not trying to panic, but I am trying to be proactive. The hearing is in one month or we have a hearing in two weeks that we don't want to get rescheduled because of some pandemic issue, can we schedule ...? If courthouse shuts down, can we have a telephonic hearing or a video?"
Todd Orston: It could be telephonic or video.
Leh Meriwether: ... at 9:00 AM on this day and it'll be ... keep it from 9:00 AM to 10:30, and so just set it. The judge might say, yeah, that's a good idea and issue an order, especially if the judge is a elderly. Says, I don't want to be in a courtroom with 200 people if I'm in that 10% to 15% mortality rate range.
Todd Orston: By the way, we keep talking about an entire courthouse shutting down. That is not the only thing that could happen. Individual judges can start canceling their calendars.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, they have the right to do that.
Todd Orston: They have the right to do that and they could blame it on whatever they want to blame it on. All of a sudden, you were scheduled to go in for a temporary hearing, emergency hearing and the judge says, ah, yeah, we've ... the judge has other issues and we're canceling that calendar and there's nothing you can do.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: So, be proactive. The first message I'm going to give is continue to be proactive. Don't be reactive. Now that we're going through this, you need to be thinking about what the big potential issues in your case are. If you have a hearing that is coming up, absolutely bring up the potential judge. If there's a compliance issue or whatever, make sure that your attorney or you, if you're representing yourself, make a request of the judge at your hearing. Let's say you have one today, but compliance is going to be an issue. "Judge, how are we going to deal with this?" Bring it up, be vocal. Get this in front of the judge. Let the judge then come up with, okay, this is what we're going to do. We'll do a telephone hearing and you'll tell me whether or not there are compliance issues that I need to deal with at that time.
Todd Orston: Then be proactive in terms of, think about what the issues are. If their assets and you're worried about those assets, you may not want to wait to deal with it. Try to reach an agreement with the opposing, and if that's not possible and you can't yourself protect assets or protect the children or protect whatever, you need to act quickly because I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know if the entire system is going to shut down and then you can't get the help that you need.
Leh Meriwether: Right don't panic plan.
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: Plan instead. I'm not saying this to panic, but just it helps you plan. What is the worst thing that could happen? The courthouse shuts down. I can't get a hearing with my judge. All right, how do I get around that? How do I still get my issue addressed if this is the worst thing that happens? Going back to what you said, the judge could shut things down. I could understand like if the judge had been ... if their staff attorney turned out they had come down with a virus and that means the judge has been around that staff attorney, and from what I understand, you were contagious a few days before you really show the symptoms, I think it's only right that the judge does shut things down at least in his courtroom because he doesn't want to give it to everybody else like the 200 people that may be in his or her courtroom, his or her.
Leh Meriwether: I think that is actually being proactive, and also the court notifying any potential litigants that may have been in there that they may want to be on the alert, but you can't stop living life.
Todd Orston: No, no. The other tip I would give is just because a court system shuts down or a case gets continued or a hearing gets continued or your trial, it doesn't mean you just sit on your hands. Use this time wisely. Gather the information that you need, work with your attorney or on your own if you're not represented and make sure that you're using this time to gather and organize the evidence that you need, not just identifying ... before we were talking about identify the big issues. Now I'm talking about use the time to then gather the evidence and organize your thoughts, especially if you're working on your own. An attorney knows how to prepare for trial. Use this time to educate yourself.
Leh Meriwether: Get better prepared.
Todd Orston: And get prepared so that when the day does come, maybe it's later than you liked, but when the day does come and you walk into court, you're ready.
Leh Meriwether: Yup. We want to end on this. Just get ready. The problem we're having right now is we weren't ready for this, and we should have been ready for it after what happened 2003 with SARS, and then again, it was a 2011/12 with MERS. We should have been getting ready, and unfortunately didn't, but that's no excuse to not do anything now. Let's educate ourselves. Don't panic. Don't stop.
Todd Orston: Keep drinking beer. No, I'm kidding. I'm joking. Sorry corona.
Leh Meriwether: We came to the studio, we're not shutting down, we're not stopping what we're doing, we're just being smart about it. We're being careful, following proper etiquette, no coughing on people, that sort of thing. That's what you need to do. Hey, everyone, thanks so much for listening. I hope that this show helps you get better prepared.